Controversial rule change aimed at tackling rental crisis divides opinion

The South Australian government plans to prohibit council restrictions placed on who can lease out granny flats.

With much of the country facing a rental crisis due to a significant imbalance in housing supply and demand, one Aussie state hopes to ease pressure by allowing granny flats to be rented out to non-family members.

The move by the South Australian Government follows housing policy already enacted in other states and aims to increase the amount of homes available to renters — but one critic fears for the standard of housing that will emerge if laws are eased on leasing granny flats.

In South Australia several councils had implemented conditions making development approval for granny flats subject to the dwelling not being leased to non-family members. But now SA Planning Minister Nick Champion has now written to the State Planning Commission urging for new practices which would stop councils from restricting who can lease a proposed granny flat building.

Left, a granny flat under construction. Right, a long line of prospective tenants queuing outside a flat viewing reveals the dire rental crisis situation.
The South Australian government plan to allow granny flats to be leased out to non-family members to ease the rental crisis. Source: Supplied and TikTok

"This type of accommodation plays an important role in helping families care for relatives," Mr Champion said. "But we want to give property owners the opportunity to offer it to the broader community."

The government is also looking to amend the Rental Tenancies Act to clearly state that granny flats can be rented out to non-family members. The changes aim to increase rental stock, place downward pressure on rental prices and provide more affordable housing options, the governemt said in a statement on Monday.

Concerns change could worsen living conditions for renters

The change may enable both pre-existing and new constructions to be used as accomodation, however, there are concerns it will only worsen the already bad living conditions many tenants are subjected to if makeshift granny flats are now offered — with the origin of these dwellings not initially intended to be a commercial rental.

"The definition of a granny flat is a dependent person's unit, it means someone [that resides here] relies on a family to stay alive — like a granny, for example. It hints that this person is going to be looked after," tenant advocate and qualified lawyer Jordan van den Berg told Yahoo News Australia.

"When you turn it from a dependent person's unit into something that makes you profit, then there's no interest from the person living in the main house to look out for that person."

There has been a wave of granny flats being offered up as accomodation across the country recently, yet many have been reprimanded for not meeting minimum living standards, with some online even being compared to a prison.

Mr van den Berg, who has become renowned for shaming sub-standard rental properties through his social media accounts, has had his fair share of exposure to dodgy dwellings.

"It's quite clear that the owner of the house on the main property doesn't give a sh*t about the person living in your granny flat," he argued. "It's just a shed that they realise, hey, I can put a toilet in and make some money off of it."

Queensland began allowing granny flats to be leased out to non-family members last September. The practice is also popular in NSW, however, there have been instances in both states where accomodation has been sub-par.

'Granny flats need to be up to standard'

Mr van den Berg believes the proposed change is "disappointing" from a renter's perspective but suggests additional measures could be introduced for their benefit.

He suggests a "warrant of worthiness" is required for each dwelling to assure the space is approved for living before tenants move in. "Like you get a roadworthy check for your vehicle but a house-worthy check," he explained. "Council approval for granny flats are quite lax."

"I think it's a great announcement from the perspective of the government and I'm glad they're currently looking for solutions, but this one's definitely not it," he said. "It could be the solution if it's implemented properly, but it won't be implemented properly"

The SA planning commission will consider Mr Champion's request at its next meeting on Thursday and if approved, the changes will come into effect immediately.

with AAP

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